Lets talk today about psychological alchemy and how it relates to yoga.
We are all familiar with the concept of ego. How would it be if I told you that you were not one but many? Some may already realize this but we are all actually a large conglomerate of "inner people". The relationships that these inner people have with each other mirrors the relationship that we have with all the other people in our external life.
So how do these inner people relate? Is one usually in charge? Are some pushed down and even berated or neglected? If you examine all of your internal dialogues you will see that every voice is the voice of one of the inner people. Some of the voices are directed at other inner people. Some voices speak with other voices, forming "inner groups". Some groups are at war with others, some get along tolerantly.
Are you aware of your "spiritual" inner people? Do they assert their "obvious authority" in all higher matters? Perhaps until the "bad" people somehow usurp the throne...
So how do we deal with the inner people and why would we even want to look at this stuff?
Well consider this. Do you feel unified in all of your activities? Do you move forward in life without "distraction" or procrastination? Have any depression or fear or do you tell yourself negative things? Can you concentrate fully and skillfully with ease? If not, then I suggest that your inner people may not be getting along...
Take note the next time at a party or even observing dinner conversation dynamics. Ever notice how one or two people take over the conversation? Or observe children and their communication dynamics. Really take note. External reality mirrors inner reality beautifully. Also examine how you relate to others, specifically how you relate to different people differently. The same thing goes on in our heads internally all the time. The "inner kingdom" can really become a dictatorship and when we identify with the ones on the bottom life can be pretty depressing as the voices on the top keep putting us down.
The first thing to do is to see this at play in our own inner universe. To start to separate out the voices and identify the different people involved, the different people who are "us". This is the alchemical process called separation.
The next alchemical process could be termed purification. In psychological terms this would be cleaning the house, helping the inner people and healing the relationships between the various people. This is the not so easy part of the work but if we have truly separated the people out it becomes much easier. Part of the problem comes when we cannot really separate out the different voices and we see them talking as one.
Another challenge at this stage is to truly see that "you" are not any of these people. Well you are and you aren't at the same time. The BIG I is something much bigger, much greater, beyond all of these voices. And yet it is not true to say that these are all just "figments and fragments" of imagination or just "contents of consciousness" either. To truly honor relative reality we have to honor these people and voices. If we don't then guess what? One of the people, most likely a "spiritual inner person" has the throne and is dictating that we need to get rid of all the other people!!! To truly come into the BIG I we have to step ALL THE WAY BACK. Back to where we pull EVERYONE off the throne. We encourage a democracy or rather a "friendly group". Here we can look without bias at all the people. Ask what they want, ask what they need. What do they EACH need to be fulfilled? If you are still asking at this point what the point is in dealing with all these voices, the "spiritual inner person" is still on the throne... Funny huh?
The purification process really involves settling the disputes or at least getting the different sides on somewhat amicable terms. Kind of like getting fighting kids to hug and make up.
If you can make it through this point, then the real GOLD comes out. We have alchemical union. We get all the people together in a "new age circle" and have them "hold hands". Your "spiritual inner person" may laugh at this but trust me you won't when you notice that suddenly you are filled with serious power. Power to concentrate, power to do, power to manifest things immediately in your life. With internal union we have one of the very definitions of yoga. Union. The dark sides and the light sides join forces and suddenly we realize the source of our power. Not only your inner relationships will change but your outer ones will too. External and internal realities reflect each other.
I say these things because for years I have fought with myself internally. The "spiritual" sides have waged war with the "mundane and dark" sides. It is a form of internal disease. The spiritual traditions that label these voices and inner people as "just thoughts" are the worst violators of all. We end up pushing down, repressing, forgetting about so much. And all of these thoughts and inner people together make up the sum total of our energy. When the voices/inner people are unified in one front we find a huge surge of potential, of energy, of freedom. Gone are guilt, shame, fear, depression, and a whole host of other negative emotions and thoughts.
And the practices of yoga, I'm talking about the deepest practices, become available. And the practices are not driven by a dictator. The practices move forward from the democratic movement of all the inner peoples that are aligned with the divine will of the BIG I. The little I's and the Big I are aligned and we truly are functioning in alignment with our true dharma.
I want to say one more thing. The hatha yoga texts tell us that "public contact" is one of the obstacles to success. What they mean by this is not that we should become hermits, but rather that giving our power over to others by joining consensus reality is dangerous. This is especially true during this process I have described above. Our "inner people" are strongly influenced sometimes by others and this can become dangerous to our internal process of purification. We have to have the strength to realize that we are in control of our own inner world, otherwise we open it up to influence that can be very dangerous to our inner ego dynamics. True allies are the exception. True allies have no expectation, want you to be fully who you are in alignment with your true dharma. They alone are worthy to let into your inner kingdom as they are the ones who will help you find true alignment with all elements of yourself.
Hope this is helpful!